Interview: Jack Thompson

I (Molotov Cupcake) was given the opportunity via Popzara to interview Jack Thompson regarding recent events. I am reprinting the interview in its entirety here to see that the information is spread throughout the internet! You can find it below. My questions are in bold, and Jack’s answers are beneath them.

Love him or hate him, the industry’s most controversial figure returns to Popzara for his second exclusive interview, as Jack Thompson once again takes the hot seat for another round of grilling and thrilling.  We welcome Jack back to discuss the recent passing and subsequent veto of Utah’s House Bill 353, as well as his recent letter to President Obama for a total ban of all violent video games. Ever-passionate and fired up about keeping the “killer games” out of the hands of youngsters everywhere, Jack’s crusade is far from over.

It’s been nearly two years since our first chat, and you can bet there’s no shortage of things to talk about.  So better tuck in the children and leave your preconceived notions at the door, as this is definitely one sit-down you don’t want to miss!

The ‘Truth in Advertising’ clause requires sellers who tout their responsibility in age-checking as genuine to abide by a set of guidelines, and is already in place, albeit without the set of amendments you’ve worked to append.

With the passing of HB 353 in Utah, how likely do you find the prospect of other states following suit regarding the ‘Truth In Advertising’ technicality to be? Despite the backlash you’ve received, how will you alter your plan of attack when it comes to persuading other states to follow suit?

Gov. Huntsman vetoed the bill, so now we go forward, in Utah and elsewhere, with a complete ban on killing games, as Germany is considering such a total ban. The logic is simple: The industry will not abide even a strict compliance with its promise to keep adult games out of the hands of kids, so we give them what they deserve-a total ban.

Recently you issued a public letter to President Obama regarding a plea to ban all violent video games. Why did you make the decision to contact the President directly rather than going through the standard legislative channels as you have in the past?

I have written letters to President Bush as well. Presidents and their Administrations propose legislation all the time.

Do you feel he mirrors your sentiments regarding games being used as “murder simulators”?

With the next Virginia Tech, I expect this President to propose draconian restrictions on these games, and that will be because for ten years, after Columbine, the industry has shown no moral compass whatsoever. They will get what they deserve.

The legislature that failed to pass in California has been likened to HB 353, having been referred to as “unconstitutional” and a violation of citizens’ First Amendment rights. However, most fail to realize that the bill is doing anything other than strengthening the ‘Truth in Advertising’ law.

What would you like to say to those who feel their rights are being “violated” via legislature that serves only to strengthen a law that is already cemented?

No retailer has a “right” to say it does something when it does not. Further, there is not some “constitutional right” for a child to buy an adult product, yet the NCAC told Gov. Huntsman of Utah that “minors have a constitutional right to buy adult entertainment.” Absurd. Studies show these killing games affect minors’ behavior.

You may be familiar with the case of Brandon Crisp (link), who ran away from his home after his parents confiscated his Xbox 360. Unfortunately, he was found dead soon after. His parents did what any responsible guardians should do – they monitored and limited their child’s time spent with video games, particularly violent ones. Despite their precautionary measures, the situation still ended in tragedy.

How can parents expect to set good examples or receive support in these situations when an entire industry is against them?

No, they weren’t responsible. They are partially culpable. They let it get out of hand, and then when it was out of hand, they over-reacted and yanked the games cold turkey. The boy wouldn’t abide that. Result: Over-reaction led to tragedy. Parents, monitor this stuff right away and keep it under control.

The veto of HB 353 has likely shocked supporters of the legislature. Governor Huntsman was cited as saying that the companies most affected “indicated that rather than risk being held liable under this bill, they would likely choose to no longer issue age appropriate labels on goods and services.”

He went on to explain that, under these conditions, the “unintended consequence” of the bill’s passing would mean that more children were likely to be exposed to age-inappropriate materials due to the lack of issuance of proper ratings. Were you taken aback at this turn of events? What does your plan to fight this veto entail?

We are trying to get what is called an over-ride session, since we have the votes 67% are needed, but 90% voted for the bill. We can then over-ride the veto. But the chances of getting the legislature to come back are small.

We will now work on a total ban bill, which will pass and will be held constitutional. I am looking forward to it.

As to the Governor, his statement is idiotic. The movie and game industries have promised Congress and various Presidents to abide by and use the ratings. They can’t opt out now. They are contractually bound to the ratings systems on both products. Huntsman’s assertion indicates he was suckered into this veto by a lying set of lobbyists and oh, by the way, he took money from ESA, so he took what amounts to a legal bribe to do what he did.

Your argument seems to suggest a relationship of collusion between industry regulators (i.e. the ESRB) and those who sell the products (i.e. retailers). But what of those retailers or employees who have not only enforced regulatory policies, but in some cases have exceeded minimum standards?

Minimum standards are ZERO sales of Mature-rated games to anyone under 17. Nobody has lived up to that standard yet. As to collusion, of course there is collusion. When the members of the ERC (ESRB Retail Council), such as Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target, GameStop, and so forth assert they don’t sell M games to kids under 17 and they know they do, I think collusion is too kind a word. Fraud would be more like it. And all of them, absolutely everyone of them, sell Mature games to anyone of any age via the Internet, and they don’t every try to verify age. Ridiculous.

Are you familiar with the case of Gamestop manager Brandon Scott (link)? His attempts to implement compassionate standards in his community – via his position – were quickly discouraged by his employer.

It seems Mr. Scott was under the impression that he owns GameStop. That was not GameStop’s policy, so they sacked him, understandably. If he wants to start his own game store and institute that policy, then be my guest. The problem for GameStop is that his position, if you think about it, is that games get in the way of doing better in school. He’s absolutely right. Do you think GameStop wants that message to get out? Of course not. So they sacked him. Instead, they should have made it their nationwide policy.

Would have hurt their bottom line, but, hey, President Obama wants companies to start doing the right thing, not the profitable thing. That would be refreshing.

What of those adults who blatantly ignore the ESRB’s rating system, and those who pander to a child’s incessant whining for a moment of peace and quiet? While a concentrated ban on all violent video games would certainly keep them out of children’s hands, might you consider targeting those irresponsible offenders rather than an entire industry that many responsible, level-headed adults enjoy?

How would you have me target irresponsible parents? Throw them in jail? There’s a bit of a constitutional/legal problem there. If we were going to start targeting irresponsible parents, then we should be throwing Take-Two Chairman Strauss Zelnick’s mother and father in the federal penitentiary. Now that would definitely be a good thing. They raised a sociopath.

Do you feel that you can somehow re-educate those who have grown up around “killer games,” or do you think their rehabilitation is a lost cause? Are the amount of individuals who find your work and opinions “inane” so set in their ways that reaching out to them is futile?

It’s fascinating to me how “video game nation” says I’m inane, a joke, irrelevant, and nothing but a silly nuisance, while at the same time video game nation is absolutely apoplectic about my every move. Make up your freaking minds. Either I’m the village idiot, or I pose a danger to the reckless elements in the industry. In fact, it’s the latter, which is exactly why you’re interviewing me again. If I were the total imbecile that the industry and its lemmings like to pretend they think I am, no one would waste a single thought on me. Doug Lowenstein of ESA was famous for saying, repeatedly, that the video game press created me and should have ignored me. That’s funny. This clown went on 60 Minutes to refute me-twice-six years apart. By his logic he should have told Ed Bradley, each time, to bother somebody else. But Lowestein did the interviews because he knew, correctly, that I pose the single greatest threat to the ongoing criminal activity of the video game industry.

I truly am its worst nightmare, and trust me, it’s going to get worse for them. I’m just getting started.

Finally, rehab game addicts? I’ll let the clinics do that. I’m trying to save lives by reducing the numbers of kids who get adult games, given what we know about how kids are more likely to copycat them. I’m called a “massacre chaser” by Lorne Lanning and other creepy ghouls-simply because I am trying to stop these massacres. The game industry is littered with massacre pimps, which is exactly what Lanning and others are.

I’m sure you’ve heard that the Obama family has welcomed a Nintendo Wii into the White House. Do you believe the President is likely to be swayed in the direction of favoring the gaming industry because he will have enjoyed the console with his children, or will his core values take precedence in his reply or actions regarding your letter?

Obama’s core values? What are those? A lot of people are trying to figure that out. Nothing wrong with the Wii. The content is the problem. I don’t have a problem with video games as a product. I have a problem with certain sectors of the industry that cough up the porn and ultra-violence games. Obama goes beyond that. Three times during the campaign, he went after the video games as a hindrance to kids getting their school work done.

I personally expect Obama, before he is done as President, to introduce federal legislation to stop, dead in its tracks the sale of killer video games. He will be following my lead in that. The way things are going, there will be another Virginia Tech, and this next time the perp won’t destroy his hard drive to prevent discovery of the game connection. Cho, you know, was a Counter-Strike nut. Be that as it may, when the next V-Tech happens and we know he was a gamer, then Obama will call for a nationwide ban on these games, given the refusal of the industry to keep them out of the hands of kids.

When that happens, and it will, the industry crackpots like Zelnick will remember that I tried to warn them. The good guys within the industry-and there are some-will say, “You know, Thompson tried to warn us, and now we’ve got a real p.r. problem.”

One final question before we wrap things up, I’m curious what does your description of a violent video game might entail? Do you feel that any title that promotes any form of violence is a candidate for banning, or only those which encourage a lifestyle of killing, headshots, or what you’ve described as sadistic and exploitive scenarios?

Similarly, are there titles that you laud for not bending to this trend that you would feel comfortable allowing children to play?

I have focused on the worst of the worst, and we all know what they are, such as GTA. Yes, there are good video games, and some that are acceptable despite certain amounts of violence.

But a society that allows the sale, which is now ongoing, of GTA IV to kids, is a society that is going to reap the whirlwind. GTA is the most successful violent video game franchise in the history of the world. Forgive me for trying to destroy it. People have spent their lives doing far less important things-like playing GTA. I am glad I have spent this time and energy doing this, even though it has cost me my legal career. I have done it to save lives. And anyone who suggests I have done it for some other reason can please go to Hell more quietly. Cheers.

[Originally posted at Popzara.]

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